(TORONTO) – During the ongoing pandemic, 98 per cent of agencies have adapted to supporting mentoring online or virtually through Big Brothers Big Sisters across Canada.
“When stay at home orders happened in March 2020, Big Brothers Big Sisters continued to offer mentoring services and found new strength through virtual meet-ups”, said Matthew Chater, President and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.
Since the reopening, mentoring continued virtually and in-person where possible following physical distancing and public health guidelines.
“Whether they are at home or in the classroom, we know that Big Brother Big Sisters mentors will continue to support students through mentoring programs, encouraging engagement and strengthening mentees’ motivation to achieve”, added Chater.
Back to school is a critical time to focus on children’s health and wellbeing especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As students head back to school, their school environment has changed with new physical distancing protocols and online learning expectations.
Across Canada, more mentors are needed either virtually or in person to support 15,000 children and youth waiting to be matched to a mentor. Agencies across Canada are still recruiting mentors with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences to support the thousands of children and youth who are waiting.
Undoubtedly, teachers and students have new worries and stresses around returning to school. Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies are well-positioned to offer the support children and teachers need through evidence-based, school-based mentoring programs. More than ever before, schools and educational institutions are counting on local community programs, like Big Brothers Big Sisters, to ease the transition back to school this fall. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors are well positioned to be there for the students in their community.
Most children and families served by Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in Canada are facing increased anxiety, stress, and are most likely to bear the heaviest burdens of trauma and economic hardship due to the pandemic.
Research shows that mentoring can build a child’s resiliency, enabling them to maintain health and wellbeing in the wake of stressful situations. This resiliency is built through the consistent, intentional and personalized support that a mentor provides to their mentee.
As part of our pandemic response, mentors across our network are exploring new online educational tools with mentees. creating virtual educational activities and engaging mentees, and reinforcing school habits, curiosity and future planning. This work is critical for supporting kids’ educational engagement now. It is also critical for equipping young people with the tools to thrive in the post-pandemic economy.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters need more mentors to support youth as they head back to school. Mentors can connect with their mentees through telephone calls, text messaging and chat, online gaming and a myriad of other virtual ways, or even in person where it safe to do so,” says Chater.
This September, Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across Canada will be recognizing Big Brothers Big Sisters Month and all the ways that volunteer mentors support 41,000 youth in Canada both outside and inside the classrooms.